Retirement Doesn't Have To Be Scary

America, it's time to get your act together. We are in big trouble when it comes to financial freedom, and ever being in a position to retire. The numbers and statistics for people nearing or in retirement are scary.

75 percent of retirement age Americans have less than $30,000 in savings.

1 in 6 older Americans live on less than $22,500. These are people you know.

Today we have five people working per one retiree, but by 2050, there will be less than three people working per retiree. That means less and less people supporting our social security system.

Americans 55 and older account for 20% of all bankruptcies typically because of medical and funeral expenses.

1/3rd of all Americans have absolutely zero confidence that they will be comfortable in retirement.

It's easy to be nervous about the financial picture that is playing out in America. But you don't have to be! You can reach a happy retirement with the correct information, planning and preparation, and maybe even earlier than you think! There are a certain set of financial milestones that you should reach to be an early and happy retiree. The best part, is that they are more obtainable than you might realize.

If you are in your 20s, 30s or 40s, it's time for you to get on the road towards a happy retirement. Yes, now. Not when you are 10 years out from retirement. You just need the right information to focus and set goals that will put you on the path to a happy retirement.

To get you started, below are a mix of traits and steps that I uncovered through my 2013 National Money and Happiness Survey - that unhappy retirees do that you should avoid.

Most unhappy retirees don’t plan to pay off their mortgage until well after the age of 65. Happy retirees typically have their mortgage paid off well before age 65. Make a plan to pay off your mortgage as quickly and realistically as possible. Happy retirees also don’t necessarily own McMansions, so don’t feel like you need a mortgage that has you spending 33 percent of your income a month. Instead, opt for a more reasonably priced home that requires less than 20 percent of your monthly income.

Start saving early. Many unhappy retirees delay saving any money until they hit 55, while some never start. This action (or inaction) puts them at a serious disadvantage. Read my previous blog on why it pays to start saving today.

Unhappy retirees have a higher propensity to be divorced. Divorce isn’t just a separation of you and your partner, but also of both of your savings and income. On top of that, happy retires tend to have more social hobbies (think volunteering and traveling with a spouse), and divorcees don’t have a built in partner in crime.

How many children do you have? Unhappy retirees tend to have fewer kids than happy retirees. If you have just one child, sorry, but you do not fall into my happy retiree category. Yes, kids might be expensive, but they’ll keep you active and engaged. So hop to it, and start making those babies!

Do you drive a BMW? That brand was the top driven luxury car of my unhappy retirees! Check out what “Fubu” commented about BMWs at the bottom of Clark Howard’s blog about cars and credit.

Bottom Line

It’s easy to fall into the unhappy retiree camp, or even worse, not have retirement as an option. Learn to avoid the pitfalls that will inevitably take you there, and start saving today. All this information is in my book, You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think , and there’s a reason it’s an Amazon best seller. Don’t just take my word for it, though - check out the book reviews on Amazon. You can also take my Money and Happiness Quiz at WesMoss.com to quickly learn if you are on track to be a happy or unhappy retiree.

Wes Moss, the Chief Investment Strategist for Wela, writes a weekly blog for AJC.com. You can find his original article here.